The Pitt men’s soccer team has been trending in the right direction since Panthers head coach Jay Vidovich took control of the program in 2016, and it appears the team is expected to continue on its upward trajectory in 2018. Specifically, much is expected of sophomore forward Edward Kizza, Vidovich’s first big get on the recruiting trail, and senior midfielder Javi Perez.
Kizza and Perez are expected to be among the best players in the country this season, according to Top Drawer Soccer, which ranked the forward 99th and the midfielder 26th in its preseason ranking of the top 100 players in the nation. In addition to that, defender Chandler Vaughn is listed on Top Drawer Soccer’s preseason best XI of freshman players.
Top Drawer Soccer accolades⬇️— Pitt Men's Soccer (@Pitt_MSOC) August 21, 2018
Preseason Top 100 Players: #26 Javi Perez, #99 Edward Kizza
Preseason Best XI: Javi Perez (Second Team), Chandler Vaughn (Freshman Team)
Final Incoming Class Ranking: #6#H2P pic.twitter.com/f3Pe07DuGn
Last season, Kizza contributed four goals and three assists and made an impact in several key games, including Pitt’s wins over West Virginia, Syracuse and Penn State. Perez, a product of the Valencia CF academy in Spain, led the team in assists, logging four to go with two goals.
The recognition of Kizza, Perez and Vaughn ahead of the season not only represents progress for Pitt, but sustained success in attracting top-level talent to a once-dormant program. That much is reinforced by the fact that the same recruiting site considers Pitt’s incoming class the sixth-best in the country as well. And all of this points to a more competitive 2018 for the team.
In fact, of the ACC’s 12 teams, eight placed a player in the Top Drawer Soccer top 100, and Pitt’s two representatives tied with Clemson and NC State for third-most behind North Carolina, which had four, and Wake Forest, which had three. Boston College, Duke, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech did not have any players included on the list.
This is certainly a positive development for the program, but Pitt still has a long way to go to lift itself out of the basement of the conference. Last season, the Panthers showed significant improvement, going a surprising 8-10 overall after a 2-13-3 campaign in 2016. However, they also seemed to hit a wall in conference play, as they finished last in the Coastal at 2-6.
With some of the top talent in the country on the field for Pitt in 2018, Vidovich’s squad may fare better against conference opponents this time around.